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November 06, 2020

During any event at Miami Swim Week, minimalist is better. Tanning lotions, frozen cocktails, a  kaleidoscopic line of sun dresses, vegan cuisine, beauty brands, and summer-borne trends overwhelm every year along Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Miami Swim Week unites upscale swimwear brands from around the world, from burgeoning designers including Frankies Bikinis and Mara Hoffman to a swimwear line from Sports Illustrated. 

The annual swimwear showcase is typically a seven-day affair, with a yearly inauguration from FUNKSHION’s Fashion Week events. FUNKSHION plays a leading role during Swim Week, with curated events year-round covering fashion, music, and culture plus a diverse array of fashion shows and presentations. This fashion week is unlike any other in the world. FUNKSHION became queen of the beach among Swim Week event sponsors after IMG opted out as a Miami Swim Week sponsor in 2015.

Miami Beach’s hotels and venues play a crucial role in Swim Week-related events, with FUNKSHION’s Swim Week offering centerstage to luxury swimwear brands. 

MARA HOFFMAN Resort Swim 2016 Presentation

Miami Swim Week 2015 was the most chaotic of them all. Mara Hoffman was the most anticipated swimwear designer to present her swimwear collection at the Versace Mansion. Throngs of celebrities, macro influencers, and rising fashionistas gathered at the mansion’s doors hoping to gain access to see the collection of the year. Shrewdly presented with an Amazonian-inspired backdrop, Hoffman’s swimwear was the perfect ode to all things tropical. Mara Hoffman’s presentations inspired nascent swimwear brands to invest less in fashion shows and more in intimate events, with an invite-only list for Miami Swim Week 2016.

Swim Week events have allowed emerging local designers to win trips to New York Fashion Week, low-profile designers to get free publicity with their pop-up events, and micro influencers to step in as leading fashion journalists.

Photography by @catsmeowphoto

As influencers experienced a meteoric rise to prominence in the swimwear industry, a pioneering influencer in Miami’s swimwear market branched out for Swim Week. Annie Vazquez from The Fashion Poet is a leading influencer in fashion, lifestyle, beauty, and the wellness industry. In 2013, Vazquez launched Escape Miami with the goal of attracting new designers and local brands to a one-day event of pop-up shops, artists, food vendors, and a fashion show from local vendors. This event provided the public a glimpse into Miami Swim Week and its allure. 

Glamour is a media outlet that frequently sends staff to Miami Swim Week, inviting bloggers to private events that offer a sneak peek at the latest trends in beauty. The main shows, however, are presented in the FUNKSHION tent, where attendees are required to show both a press pass and proof of a private invite from a designer.

Another major element of Miami Swim Week is Cabana Swim Week, during which designers and brands reveal the newest trends for next season. Throughout the trade show, buyers have the opportunity to prepare their orders for next season and can receive exclusive information about the swimwear market such as what will be trending the next few months.

After Miami Swim Week 2015, swimwear brands adjusted their budgets and brought more intimate events for 2016. Brands took a fresh approach, not only debuting their swimwear collections but also collaborating with other beauty brands to co-promote beauty trends and technology including butt lift, skincare, waterproof makeup, and more.

Swimwear alone does not provide enough draw to sustain a fashion week of this caliber. For years, brands have known that swimwear has a one-season peak, lying dormant the rest of the year. To adapt, swimwear brands have developed various strategies to attract more buyers from around the world, where summer is not year-round like it is in the Magic City.

In 2016, Swim Week maintained a similar approach. Escape Miami was held for its fourth year and FUNKSHION remained the leader among swimwear events, with IMG remaining absent from the fashion week. Although IMG expressed interest in returning for 2016 with a new luxury slant, the company ultimately decided against it.

Photography by Jannely Espinal

Miami’s burgeoning fashion community did not allow IMG’s absence to halt the shows; as the saying goes: “The show must go on.” In 2016, Swim Week scheduled a series of trade shows, runway shows, and parties. Five organizations stepped up to pull together shows and events; FUNKSHION’s fashion week (the largest), SWIMMIAMI, Dive, Chromat, and Made Fashion Week joined forces to put Swim Week back on the media’s radar. SWIMMIAMI brought fifteen shows, with big name brands including Frankies Bikinis, Issa de’ Mar, and Hot as Hell.

Miami Swim Week 2017 attracted a broader audience to the Magic City, from the Suarez sisters to Australian models Tash Oakley and Devin Brugman. It was the year of the self-made influencer, with private influencer parties at Soho Beach House and other luxury hotels.

The season was an eclectic mix of models, celebrities, influencers, and designers spotted around shows, hotel pools, and dinner and afterparties. Swimwear brands used theatrical shows to leverage their brand identity. Luli Fama’s 2018 runway collection was one of the most reviewed shows of the season: It featured a ten-minute special performance of Afro-Cuban music along with a trumpeter to showcase the brand’s Cuban roots and play homage to Cuban culture, people, and art. 

Swimwear brand Hot as Hell sent homogeneous models down the runway with this message about diversity: “You can be beautiful with any shape, at every age, as a member of any race.” Swim Week was taking steps to show it is an industry of inclusivity.

Photography via Bikini Luxe

Miami Swim Week played into the body positivity movement with swimwear brands including Sports Illustrated (which would go on the following year to feature Tyra Banks, is first-ever plus-size cover girl, as the face of its SI Swimsuit Edition). 2018 was the year that numerous swimwear brands began raising awareness about plus-size modeling, breaking barriers of normal beauty standards with curvy, athletic, and skinny models. The debut of the Sports Illustrated runway show presented many women of different shapes and sizes, catching the media’s attention and generating social awareness about beauty. During this season, Aerie Real debuted a resort show with Aly Raisman to communicate the meaning of girl power, body positivity, and no-retouching awareness to brands.

Miami Swim Week 2018 busted through boundaries. It was the year that brought sexy back, positioning the swimwear industry as one that embraces women of all colors, sizes, and looks. After all, in Miami anyone can wear a swimsuit.